For those of you that don’t know them, Bent Knee are a band from Boston, Massachusetts. They are one of those bands that decided playing one genre isn’t very 21st century. They blend together basically anything that will work with the vision they want to relay. Ranging from – but not limited to – avant-pop, to jazzy tinges, to straight up progressive rock, all these things seamlessly stream into one another; creating a homogeneous, organic and vibrant flux of sounds. You Know What They Mean is their fifth album and it is quite a reassuring record given how toned down Land Animal was.
You Know What They Mean basically picks up on where Shiny Eyed Babies and Say So left off, while simultaneously taking the band’s unique aural adventure further. While we see some obvious returns to these roots, we also see the album expanding into new territory and even on traces from Land Animal. You Know What They Mean is a great record and we’ll see exactly how and why.
Quite frankly, I don’t believe in the short intro tracks some bands still use, unless they’re made to great effect or they blend well with the concept. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Bent Knee manage to make their intro track “Lansing” work out quite nicely. It gives us the feeling that we’re actually seeing them, sitting in front row seats as they get ready to rock on stage; and that’s pretty sweet.
“Bone Rage” pretty much speaks for itself with a title like that. It’s a real banger though, blasting out of nowhere with some thick riffage, along with Courtney Swain’s electric and undulating vocal delivery, hearkening to the heavier bits on Shiny Eyed Babies. It ends very abruptly, letting “Give Us The Gold” give us a little breather with its catchy, melodic delivery and lively chorus. “Hold Me In” follows up on some of that catchy substance with a poppish approach. While it manages to lull us into thinking it’s going to be all smooth, it just decides to ramp things up with a wealth of layers and power, ending on a high note.
Innocuously opening up its soft voice, “Egg Replacer” comes up next. Again, it assures us everything is going to be all easygoing, but not before violently bursting with raw energy in a glorious break. Just as abruptly, it returns to its initial state only to close on another burst. Marvelous. With glitched-out voices in its incipience, “Cradle of Rocks” pops into the frame with more lively beats and alluring grooves, giving everything a dance kind of vibe. “Lovell” is basically the continuation of “Lansing”, and it feels like a mid-set doodle that will lead the audience further down the beautifully odd and winding road that this album is.
With a slower tempo, but the same gravitas and layering, “lovemenot” expands on that almost noisy, oddball charm that is so characteristic of the band to display. Brooding and massive, it marches on up to its climax where it breaks down into what would be most aptly described as some lovely instrumental gibberish. Going for something more upbeat and ethereal, “Bird Song” toys with some snappy melodies and delightful vocal tones that overlap.
Next up, “Catch Light” straight up delivers the goods with a little bit of everything we got before, all nicely wrapped up in a package that’s filled to the brim with ingenuity. I guess it’s songs like this for which terms like ‘art-rock’ were invented, because I seriously can’t think of a better phrase to condense what is going on. It’s all so vivid, eclectic, and organic that saying it’s ‘sound art’ is the only appropriate way of putting it.
Having what is definitely the most mellow overall vibe, “Garbage Shark” takes advantage of that description to explore some weirder sounding textures, creating more enthralling depths in this whole picture. It also doesn’t want to miss the opportunity of ending its exploration with a proper bang; you know, just because. Immediately after, “Golden Hour” drops the big reverb jar, spilling expansive tones all over the place, all to our collective delight. I mean, the first half of the song feels like stepping into a place drenched in myth and an ample, surreal scenery that is just otherworldly. The other half twists back to some previously iterated ideas but with a unique touch.
“It Happens” continues seamlessly on the latter half of “Golden Hour”, and its latter half continues seamlessly on the first half of “Golden Hour”, which at a glance kind of sounds like making two different songs with a lot of extra steps. However, this works out quite nicely, although I couldn’t really pinpoint as to what exactly makes this backwards approach work – it just does. The soothing, spacey, and tripped out ending of “It Happens” is basically the perfect coda for this monumental album.
You Know What They Mean is not only a veritable masterpiece, but it’s also what you say to your friends when they finish listening to this, and stare in awe and confusion at you. Bent Knee didn’t just release a new album, they made up for all the lackluster bits from Land Animal and then some. They’re at the forefront of modern music that pushes the envelope of creative songwriting and virtuous musicianship. No one could have hoped for such a mesmerizing and enchanting experience. If you like music, regardless of genre, you can’t miss out on this.